Historic Isadore Lourie speech

Running into Joel Lourie today at Rotary reminds me of this historic speech of his Dad's that he shared with me back in January, saying, "I thought you might enjoy a speech given by my father in 1970 when I.S. Leevy
Johnson and Jim Felder became two of the first three African-Americans elected
to the SC House since the early 1900s. Given the upcoming inauguration in
Washington, it is a great example of how far we have come."

He said I should feel free to share it, and I meant to. Now, belatedly, I do so, in a spirit of gratitude for the leadership that Joel's late father gave this community:


By the

Honorable Isadore E. Lourie

On the Occasion of the Installation
of the

Richland County Legislative

November 13, 1970

House Chamber, The State House,
Columbia, South Carolina


For most of us … our youth was a
pleasant time when bare feet carried us through happy summers and warm
breakfasts carried us to schools where learning and friendship mixed to fill
our minds with new ideas and our characters with strength.  The world was at our feet.  Every one of our mothers and fathers held
out unlimited hope for our futures.  No
barriers stood in the way of our dreams. 
In every sense of the word … we were free … free to look forward to
tomorrow … free to be ourselves … free to be proud … free to harbor all of the
hopes of youth … free to daydream of conquering challenges. 


At the same time … some of our
neighbors felt the frustration of limited dreams.  History had written that theirs was a smaller world where hope
was rationed in small portions and daydreams were not visions of things to come
… but fantasies of wishful thinking that would be shattered by a world where
clouds of misunderstanding blackened the horizons of hope.  To eight generations of Black children … the
time between birth and death was an age of frustration and broken dreams.


The days of our youth were times of
different worlds when we saw things in different lights … one world illuminated
by unbounded future … the other illuminated by the dismal gray of limited


The years since we were young have
ticked away waiting for those two separate worlds to confront each other.  In some places that confrontation has been
marked by spilled blood … by the clash of raw emotions that have turned
neighbor against neighbor.  In some
places … the shrill sounds of separatism and hate have been the chorus which
accompanied that confrontation.  In some
places … both worlds have been washed away by changing times only to be
replaced by even more intense bitterness. 


Last week … thousands of Richland
County citizens stood quietly in lines before polling booths pondering the
course of our history.  In orderly
processes … they marched one by one into gray metal machines which would
register their decisions.  Alone …
unwatched … unaided … they pulled the levers that bring our people together.  Silently … without a word … thousands in
company of only their own thoughts … reached and pulled and then walked away to
let collective judgment steer the dreams of the next generation of young


In an old warehouse … the men sworn
in today … waited for those secrets to become known.  Men who work with their hands … women who raise children …
lawyers … doctors … black men … white men … children and grandparents crowded
together in front of television sets which lit the campaign headquarters with
anticipation.  All eyes found a common
direction and calculated silently as returns flashed on the screen.  The favorable early returns began the crowd
buzzing … and discussions of hope started in each corner of the red, white and
blue bunted room.  Ten precincts …
twenty precincts … thirty … then forty … and finally all precincts reported
their judgments.  The two worlds had
come together peacefully.  In Richland
County, South Carolina, we had chosen the road to decision that allows every
man to take part. 


Jim Felder and I.  S. Leevy Johnson have become Representatives
in the General Assembly of all the people. 
Today … they are very special because they are the first.  But they will never be special again.  And that is what it was all about … making
it an everyday occurrence to be a lawmaker … making it normal to serve your
fellow man no matter what the color of your skin is.  Some newsmen have predicted Jim Felder and I.  S. 
Leevy Johnson will be very special Representatives.  But it is our hope that they will just be
Representatives … providing answers to the problems we all face.


Governments are established to solve
our common problems.  Lawmakers seek
solutions for all the people … and none of the people can be a special
case.  Perhaps now … it will be that way
in South Carolina. 

(Note – the speech is for the installation of
the Richland Delegation which included I.S. Leevy Johnson and Jim Felder.  Herbert Fielding, from Charleston, was the
third African-American elected to the House that year.  These three men were the first
African-Americans elected to the SC House of Representatives since the early

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